I have much enjoyed my first year as your Chairman. Those of us who braved the rain also enjoyed a great Summer Party at the Foster-Taylor’s magnificent garden at Tilbury Hall; something very special. Taking over from Simon Ward, has enabled me to appreciate the tremendous work he did for the Association, and what a difficult act, it is for me, to follow.
It has struck me, when becoming more involved, to see how many conservation and heritage societies have been established in one form or another to guard against unwelcome development in this part of the country. So often when there is a threat a new local protection association is formed. One had only to attend Stop Stansted Expansion meetings to see this. The challenge for us is how to expand our active membership so that CSCA is seen as the main organisation in our area which will take on the threat.
Although we now have over 600 individual members I believe we may well need to liaise more closely with some of the other like-minded associations in future, and vice versa, on important issues to ensure our energies are pooled and no important issues get overlooked. Also, an increasing number of our villages are producing excellent Design Statements, which will do much to preserve the important characteristics and physical qualities of both the villages and the surrounding countryside. These are very expensive to commission, but demonstrate the importance which parishes attach to ensuring that what we value so much can be preserved for future generations. We are trying to build up closer ties with some of these villages. In addition to our individual membership, we now have 23 affiliated parishes and societies.
Stansted is very unsatisfactory. At the time of writing this letter there is still uncertainty over the route of the flight paths into and out of Stansted. The Inspector’s decision to approve airport expansion for an extra 23,000 flights carrying an additional 10 million passengers per year was most disappointing and will, if the expansion goes through, result in a large increase in overflying planes. The politics are confusing, particularly with uncertainty as to what will happen at Heathrow and Gatwick. I suspect we are in a “lull” period at the moment. Although some of you are not as concerned as others, many are. I have therefore registered to give evidence at the second runway hearing. I attended the procedural hearing. From comments made, the omens are not good. The Inspector more than once said he was not inquiring into Government policy, which is to see Stansted expanded. Given the speed in which the Inquiry is to take place, a decision may be made before the next General Election. One wonders why the hurry with the economic downturn and present decline in air passengers. I will be greatly assisted, when I come to give evidence, if all of you who have been or will be affected by noise if there is a second runway, write to me explaining your concerns. This really will help me. The more letters the better.
There is nothing further to report on the Buntings development at Great Horkesley. As yet no revised planning application has been submitted. Under current economic conditions it is difficult to see how it will ever be funded.
During the year we have been involved with a number of undesirable planning applications across the area, in most cases supporting the Parish Council. Although we try to monitor applications, we cannot be relied on to pick up every objectionable one. Please don’t assume we are aware of what is going on in your area. If any of you hear of anything which you consider we should take a stand on, do bring it to the attention of your local representative or a Committee member. We need to be increasingly vigilant, particularly with Government pressure to circumvent planning regulations to build more houses and the inducements to install onshore wind turbines without regard to their effect on the landscape.
One matter worth mentioning specifically is the plan to increase the Abberton Reservoir by 58%: taking the required additional water from the Ely Ouse, via an additional underground pipe from Kirtlington Green to Wixoe and then through the Stour, to a new pumping station at Wormingford. We have looked into this, attending a meeting at Wormingford and liaising with the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project, who have studied the scheme closely. Our attempt to move the site of the pumping station was unsuccessful after Savills undertook a further landscape study. However, the changed design of the building, now looking like a field barn, is quite acceptable. Although this scheme will involve the abstraction of a lot more water, it will not, we understand, affect the water levels in the river, nor have any significant environmental effect.
On the home front, successive Chairmen stress the continuing need to recruit new members. Where we are particularly short is in getting younger people to join. We desperately need the next generation so that we can hand over to them in good time. All ideas on how to achieve this are very welcome. If there are younger families in your area who you believe should join, do approach them. We are intending to arrange a party for this age group so that they can get to know each other.
I must mention the considerable assistance from my fellow Committee members, not least from Mark Dawson for all he has done in revamping our excellent website and editing this newsletter. Those who have written articles are to be specially thanked. I hope you will agree the newsletter is an excellent read. Although expensive to produce, we think the coloured photographs are essential. The advertising which Mark has secured will go someway to meet the cost.
On a sad note, Ros Henderson, our wonderful secretary, has decided to retire after many years. She has been a very great help to a number of successive Chairmen, not least to me, and a good friend to all. We shall miss her. I am sure that some of you will want to thank her personally for all that she has done for us. I hope to be able to announce her successor at the meeting.
Finally, past Chairmen have added a separate report in addition to their letter to members. As this will merely duplicate what I have written above, I have decided to discontinue this and in future set out what should be reported to you in my letter. I will of course update the meeting on any relevant matters and try to answer your questions.